Yesterday, I was outside in my reading hammock, with my dog at my feet, and a cool drink resting nearby and I polished off Sharon M. Draper’s “Out of My Mind” in just under two hours. 295 pages. Loved it. By contrast, I spent about half that time on the short stories and bubble format questions of the benchmark assessment my kids are given at the beginning of the year (I took the test too – if they have to, I figure I should too) and even I was questioning my love of reading at the end of it. But I digress…I have been thinking a lot about Reading. In particular, in establishing a classroom environment that oozes with love for the printed word.
In setting up my reading classroom, I want to build on what seems to be a fairly well established love of books amongst my students. They are very well read, very reflective of what they have read and very keen to read more. I know…I am super lucky. I also have the author of the fabulous book blog One Page To The Next as a parent in my class. On Friday, we met to throw around ideas for growing a class of readers and writers. Last year, all of my kids kept blogs as a way of sharing their reading reflections. This year, I want to open things up. Here are some ideas we plan on pursuing:
Book Time Line
I came across My Life Through Books via my Twitter network. Developed by Phil Sharp, it is a very cool visual way to share what you have read. This is hot off the press and not ready for public consumption just yet – which is a shame because when you go to the site and check it out, it is slick and cool and just the ticket for showcasing your reading prowess. Until it becomes avaliable, I like the idea and think it could be transferred to a platform like Dipity by students so that they can track their reading history from the beginning to the end of fifth grade. If you like the look of seeing “________ (insert your name) Life Through Books”, be sure to let Phil know!
Newberry (or Other Award Winning Books) Challenges
Mr. Shu, a pretty awesome librarian and mega-lover of literature, is on a quest to read award winning books (among the million other books he reads – seriously, this guy is a machine!). We loved the way he was sharing his progress with his students via posters of award winning books that he then gives a gold sticker to, upon reading. A great way to introduce a selection of books and to share your own reading with the students or to encourage them to challenge themselves in their own reading. There are lots of lists of top books you could do this with. I like the look of the NPR Top 100 Teen Books – despite the fact that Wonder doesn’t feature
Here is Mr. Shu explaining why he decided to do this challenge:
Wonder by RJ Palacio was the only book I assigned as summer reading for my incoming class. Starting tomorrow we are going to take a leaf out of the book – or more accurately Mr. Browne, the English teacher’s book – and begin with precepts. On the first day of school, Mr. Browne writes the word PRECEPTS on the board and asks if anyone knows what it means. Among his 5th graders, the answer is crickets. (I am curious to hear what my kids will say!) So he writes on the board “Precepts = Rules About Really Important Things!” After asking the children what some really important things might be (he gets “rules,” “homework,” “schoolwork,” “parents,” “family,” “pets,” “friends,” “sharks” — that sort of thing), he writes on the board “WHO WE ARE!”
“Who we are,” he said, underlining each word as he said it. “Who we are! Us! Right? What kind of people are we? What kind of person are you? Isn’t that the most important thing of all? Isn’t that the kind of question we should be asking ourselves all the time? ‘What kind of person am I?’” (47)
From here, Mr. Browne launches into his yearly ritual. It starts with one final inscription on the chalkboard: “Mr Browne’s September Precept: When Given the Choice Between Being Right or Being Kind, Choose Kind.” From there, the instructions unfold like so:
- Students create a section in their English notebooks dedicated to monthly precepts.
- At the beginning of each month, the teacher will write a new precept on the board for students to copy.
- Students will then discuss the precept and what it means.
- At the end of the month, students will write a brief essay on that month’s precept, what it means to them personally, and how they managed in their attempts to “live it out” over the past four weeks.
- Students will have these precepts to take home in June. In the summer, they are required to mail the teacher a precept of their own on a postcard.
Today, I made a space for the precept of the month. I wanted there to be somewhere for the kids to focus their attention on with regard to this idea from the book. I hope to see them add to it with quotes along the same theme, examples of “choose kind” in their lives or around the world, other books that share a similar theme to the precept…or anything!
Reading Graffiti Wall
Whilst I am still looking for a great title, I am pretty much in love with how the wall turned out. I had read about graffiti walls for sharing about books and I think it could be fun. I also want to experiment with a plain paper that can be written on, but I thought, given that I happened to have brick colored paper, that I would start there. I can’t wait to see what ends up on it! If you have a suggestion for a heading, I’m all ears!
As I mentioned, my kids last year had book blogs. While my kids this year will soon also have blogs, I am interested in giving them a physical space to “sell” what they are reading from. To that extent, I am leaving everything up to them. My husband measured and taped off the board outside our room for me so that everyone has a space. Starting tomorrow, how they decorate and display their reading will be up to them. I look forward to seeing how thoughtfully creative they will be!
This is just the beginning to the development and transformation of reading in fifth grade! There are plans afoot for the incorporation of Book Trailers (viewing, sharing, creating and critiquing), possibilities for Author interactions via Skype or in person, Illustrator studies (starting with my personal all-time favorite, Peter H. Reynolds) and using QR codes to link to digital content that we post on our blogs.
How do you develop a love for reading in your class? What new ways of doing are you trying this year?